Methodology at work: semantic fields «sharp» and «blunt»
The article compares the qualities ‘sharp’ and 'blunt' in 20 languages. We show that they tend to be unequal, with bluntness being negatively defined through sharpness. The two main oppositions in the domain are 1) the type of sharp object, and 2) the sense through which the quality is primarily experienced. The first opposition divides objects into bladed (knives etc) and pointed (needles etc), the second deals with touch vs. vision and translates to function (sharp/blunt instruments etc) vs. shape (pointed/rounded features etc).
We also find that these oppositions determine the semantic shifts that a word of sharpness or bluntness can have, and that the metaphoric patterns are consistent across languages.
The article deals with the semantics of English adjectives ‘blind’ and ‘deaf’ within a broader typological project. We analyze the main classes of their literal uses, as well as the patterns of metonymical and metaphorical shifts. Some morpho-syntactic properties of these two lexemes are also considered. The discussion touches upon the contribution of our data to a theoretical discussion on how different perception types are hierarchically structured by human language.
The Societas Linguistica Europaea (SLE) and The University of Naples Federico II held the 49th Annual Meeting of the Societas Linguistica Europaea (SLE 2016) in Naples, August 31st- September 3rd, 2016. SLE meetings provided a forum for high-quality linguistic research from all domains of linguistics and attracted the submission of workshop proposals and papers on specialised linguistic areas. The meetings also hosted a round table of experts to discuss various topics of linguistic interest.
The article deals, in a typological perspective, with verbs describing sounds of inanimate objects (cf. the noise of a door being opened, of coins in somebody’s pocket, of a river, etc.). The analysis is based on the data from four languages (Russian, German, Komi-Zyrjan, Khanty), which were obtained from dictionaries, corpora and field investigation. We discuss, first, the primary meanings of these verbs and identify the parameters that underlie semantic distinctions between them (type of sound source and its features, type of situation causing the emission of a sound, acoustic properties of sounds). Then we consider the derived meanings of sound verbs, which are developed through metonymic and metaphoric shifts and analyze the mechanisms behind each of these shifts. Finally, we examine a type of semantic change in our data which cannot be explained in terms of either of those mechanisms and hence represents a separate kind of meaning shift.
Temperature phenomena are universal, relatively easily perceptible by humans and crucial for them, but their conceptualisation involves a complex interplay between external reality, bodily experience and evaluation of the relevant properties with regard to their functions in the human life. The meanings of temperature terms are, thus, both embodied and perspectival. Rather than reflecting the external world objectively, they offer a naïve picture of it, permeated with folk theories that are based on people’s experience and rooted in their culture (cultural models). Languages differ as to how many temperature terms they have and how these categorize the temperature domain in general Closely related languages can show remarkable differences in their uses of temperature adjectives, even when these are cognates to each other; conversely, temperature systems can show remarkable areal patterns. Temperature terms can belong to different word classes, even within one and the same language (adjectives – ”cold”, verbs – ”to freeze”, nouns – ”coldness”). Languages vary in their word-class attribution of temperature concepts: thus, for instance, many languages lack temperature adjectives. Word-class attribution and, further, lexicalization of temperature expressions and the possible syntactic constructions in which they can be used are sensitive to their semantics.
Temperature meanings are often semantically related to other meanings, either synchronically (within a polysemantic lexeme) or diachronically. Thus, temperature concepts often serve as source domains for various metaphors and are extended to other perceptional modalities (‘hot spices’, ‘warm colour’). Temperature meanings can also develop from others, e.g., ‘burn, fire’ >’hot’, or ’ice’ > ’cold’. Finally, the meanings of temperature terms can also change within the temperature domain itself, e.g. ‘warm, hot’ > ‘lukewarm’, as in Lat. tep- ‘warm’ vs. English tepid ‘lukewarm’. While some languages show extensive semantic derivation from the temperature domain, others lack it or use it to a limited degree. Languages vary as to which temperature term has predominantly positive associations in its extended use (cf. ‘cold’ in Wolof vs. ‘warm’ in the European languages), partly due to the different climatic conditions.
Temperature terms have, on the whole, received relatively little attention. Cross-linguistic research on temperature is mainly restricted to Sutrop (1998, 1999) and Plank (2003), which focus on how many basic temperature terms there are in a language and how they carve up the domain among themselves. There has been no cross-linguistic research on the grammatical behaviour of temperature expressions, apart from a few mentions.
In theoretical semantics, temperature adjectives have mainly figured in discussions of lexical fields, antonymy and linguistic scales (cf. Lehrer 1970, Cruse & Togia 1995, Sutrop 1998, cf. also Clausner & Croft 1999). Koptjevskaja-Tamm & Rakhilina 2006 suggest that linguistic categorization of the temperature domain is sensitive to several parameters, that are important and salient for humans and can be distinguishable by simple procedures relating to the human body. Within the Natural-Semantic Metalanguage, Goddard & Wierzbicka (2006) propose the general formula for describing the language-specific meanings of temperature terms via reference to fire.
Extended uses of temperature words have been studied indirectly in cognitive linguistics, primarily in research on the metaphors underlying emotions, e.g. AFFECTION IS WARMTH (Lakoff & Johnson 1997:50) and ANGER IS HEAT (Kövecses 1995, also Goossens 1998; cf. also Shindo 1998-99). An important question raised in Geeraerts & Grondelaers (1995) is to what degree such extensions reflect universal metaphorical patterns or are based on common cultural traditions. The current empirical evidence for the suggested metaphors is still relatively meagre.
Analysis of Russian prepositions pod ‘under’ and iz-pod ‘from-under’ in temporal constructions
The article examines the relationship between time and space in language on the basis of adjectives denoting high or low speed in Russian and other (mostly Slavic) languages. In physics the notion of speed is defined in terms of time and space (distance per time unit). It is argued, however, that speed in natural language is a primarily temporal concept involving the comparison of the temporal properties of a ‘target situation’ with those of a ‘norm’. Speed terms are shown to develop their own metaphors and metonymies, subsequently becoming connectors and intensifying markers. This argument has important theoretical implications insofar as it demonstrates that the domain of time is less dependent on space than the traditional view might indicate.